Please watch both anime seasons before the movie, it's not a standalone movie, you won't understand much otherwise.
If you are a fan it's a must see movie.
I'd always wondered what I didn't like about manga gaming films, and now I know: too much dialogue and repetitive, unoriginal fight scenes.
So imagine if you hadn't played or talked to anyone that had played an MMO, but wrote a love story that is set inside one.
That's the Sword Art Online Anime series in a nutshell. The two seasons of this popular, tolerable anime, and this movie, is still defined heavily by that small, fateful decision to fit a teenage drama, inside a Virtual Reality game that is both shabby, and oddly intriguing at the same time.
The best word for SAO is shallow. It's so beautifully shallow and contrived.
The movie heavily relies on you having seen the series to know who the characters are, where the world is, the relationships, and the impact of certain terms and experiences. I doubt that the movie would make sense, based on the flashbacks and short vignette moments where Kazuto/Kirito the protagnoist, and Asuna, are living in their virtual house from SAO in VR, meeting characters from the series, or the technobabble aspect of the AR/VR technology that is pervasive in 2026's Japan.
It is set a few days after the end of season 2, so, you should binge watch the 49-50 episodes if you're new to the series. it will be a struggle. (or watch the abridged series on youtube for the hilarity instead)
So, what's the movie like ? a bigger, better version of the Anime series. The action driven plot is amazingly good, surprisingly good really. the focus on the action instead of characters is part of this. The action scenes will remind you of the good parts of SAO, instead of the unforgiving and dull moments from the series, while the plot is unusual and, deeply contrived. Art, direction, music, and pacing are fantastic, but the story is broken once you get to the end of the movie. Things do fit together in the end, but it's a majestic journey that relies on so many contrivances and choices having been made that it's boggling if you really think about the circumstances or the outcomes, or the possibilities glossed over. You'll either give the movie an 8 or 9/10, or below 5/10 if the story and plot bothers you too much.
Reki Kawahara, has built a wondrous world, that at no time ever has any consistency, or makes sense. The various VR and AR games have some shallow depth to world-building, but there's nothing likeable about the games themselves. You wouldn't want to play SAO, ALO or GGO because they're all deeply unfun games when you're not the awesome hero Kirito, or he's not in the group you're in. Maybe VR has lowered the bar for enjoyable games in 2022, which makes sense if you look at the Vive and Rift catalogue today... but this is perhaps not what is, or was intended.
Characters are consistent, and the "harem" that develops around kirito the obvious hero, is built mostly around characters that fit together because they're friends. Kirito/Kazuto might turn up occasionally to win his proscribed battle, save the day, then it all resets back to the friendzone. So there's some redeemable aspects. but it's never enough to like the show on merit.
Where to begin, without spoiling the movie... Well, it's not bad. Not good, not terrible, it's Sword Art Online's storyline if it had continued narratively from S1 and S2, given the interjection of a new AR RPG game among the old veteran VR RPG players that's slowly taking over. The teens Kirito/Kazuto and Asuna/Yuuki, now living their own lives separately in real life, still somehow attending school as SAO survivors from the Second Season (or have graduated ?), are still going through the awkward phase of their relationship where they don't have anything in common, except a shared terrific, alienating and whirlwind experience of romance.
Apart from the ominous doom this foretells, they still like each other enough to hang out in ALO with their circle of friends and play occasionally, while Ordinal Scale the AR game is becoming the next big thing. Allusions to Pokemon Go are prolific at first, but they manage to tie in the 'always watching' nature, always being scanned, always online. The headset even knows what you consume, adds up your calories, monitors your health, etc. which is something that sadly, gets skimmed over for the sake of the plot. Again, great ideas, eccentric execution due to the story.
As an OVA/movie based in the series, they've done a fantastic job of taking the art and plot up to 11, using more of the same awkward teenage /unemployed characters that would have survived a 'death game' and improvising an actual story this time around that attempts to bridge the legacy of SAO, along with the positives from ALO of Season 2 and the side-characters of GGO.
The plot is okay, the characters are better than in the series, the villian(s) are creative, but not that well defined. The mystery is ill defined, and unless you have familiarity with the manga or the anime series, the story during the credits is heartwarming, i suppose, the post-credits ending won't make much sense unless you're a fan, or have read the manga.
It was fine, but not as amazing as they could have made it and this is coming from a true fan who loved the series. The last 30 minutes were much more enjoyable than the rest which was boring at times. 6/10.
TBh i was scared that this movie was going to suck, BUt dam i was really wrong. It really was a great movie! I really loved the asuna-kirito romance storyline mixed in with the battle storyline. Why couldnt he have done this good on his accel world movie???love this movie!! But as "mizuirome" said its better to watch the anime then this movie....
I enjoyed both seasons of the show but this just fell flat for me.
Unexpected awesome right before i went with my gf